Why Don’t We Vote?
In 2008, when 62% of eligible voters cast ballots for the president of the United States it was a 40-year high for US voter turnout. Over those years an average of just 57% of eligible voters chose our president. U.S. voter turnout in 2016 ranked 26th of 32 developed nations surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
What is the story with the other 38–43% of eligible voters…
Over the years I’ve heard things like:
- “It’s not on my radar.”
- “My vote makes no difference. It’s hopeless.”
- “I don’t like either of the candidates.”
- “It’s not convenient.”
But in the past five years, there’s been a change in tone…
“I’m not eligible to vote, I don’t have ID, I’m not registered, I can’t get away from work, I can’t get to the polls, I don’t know how to get a ballot by mail, there aren’t any drop boxes near me, etc.” The Global Citizen movement calls these complaints “barriers to voting.” Those who champion the right to vote have pointed to state and local reductions in voting locations, fewer days and shorter hours to vote, and a scarcity of ballot boxes as the cause of such complaints.
As we approach November 3rd, no matter where you get your news you have probably heard this referred to as voter suppression. The term is frighteningly similar to “vote suppression,” which came into use in the 1880s, as racists scrambled to erect methods of keeping black men from exercising their right to vote after the 15th Amendment to the constitution was ratified in 1870.
In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, ushering in a new period of voting suppression strikingly similar to that post-15th Amendment period. During the 2018 mid-term election incidences of suppression reached new heights and has become an overwhelming concern as we now vote for the next president of the United States.
To hear our president tell it, we should be cracking down on voter fraud, securing the election against ineligible voters and votes, and avoiding mail-in ballots like the plague. He tweets about voter fraud incessantly, perhaps to distract from what appears to be the true concern: voter suppression.
I’ve been asking myself why any patriotic American, and further, any elected government official, would want to deny an eligible voter the right to vote?
Yes, I do understand that voter fraud is a real thing, and restrictions are necessary to prevent it. Certainly, some proponents of stricter voting regulations believe they are protecting the country from voter fraud, and of course, any type of fraud is inherently bad. But the lack of significant and sufficient evidence of voter fraud makes laws, rules, and requirements designed to prevent it from occurring pretty tough to swallow.
The votes left uncast when tighter restrictions are put in place tend to be those of the poor, people of color, and other marginalized populations, the exact citizens who might benefit from voting for a president committed to making changes to improve their lives.
I’m not even sure how to say 0.000067%, are you?
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do the math. This means one method of voter suppression alone may have suppressed 40,000 votes in Kansas in one election (2012 presidential election).
I am not an expert on civic engagement, our country’s election laws, or the history of voting and voter suppression. But I do have a brain. To date, voter suppression has had a much bigger impact on the outcome of U.S. elections than has voter fraud, and votes lost to voter suppression are more likely to result in election of the wrong candidate than are infinitesimal incidences of voter fraud.
Yes, I lean left and want a change in administration come January 20, 2021. But that doesn’t preclude me from earnestly wanting all eligible voters to vote, regardless of their political persuasion and how they would cast their ballot.
In a democracy founded on bold principles of equality and justice, said to be “…of the people, by the people, and for the people,” FACILITATING the vote for ALL the people should be our guide to structuring elections, regardless of party affiliation. For many people, voting is the only way they can make their voices heard. It is a constitutionally guaranteed approach of speaking truth to power.
In just seven days, one week, voting for the next president of the United States of America will come to a close. Chaos and confusion still rain within the U.S. postal service, a glaring example of voter suppression. Instead of gearing up months ago when it was clear this election would depend heavily on the efficient processing of mail-in ballots, the administration did everything it could to collapse the USPS. I still believe our patriotic postal civil servants will win the day.
But with our voting percentages among the lowest of developed nations, why aren’t those in power more concerned with protecting our most sacred democratic right? No matter who wins this election, shouldn’t the president of the United States, arguably the leader of the FREE world, be leading the rallying cry to get out the vote? Isn’t this the attitude we ALL want our leader to have?
If not, then the United States of America is NOT the country it has held itself up to be, and maybe I need to start looking look for another place to live…